Listen to the SoCal VoCals sing “All Hail” as an introduction to their rendition of “Tusk.”
All Hail to Alma Mater
To thy glory we sing;
All Hail to Southern California
Loud let thy praises ring;
Where Western sky meets Western sea
Our college stands in majesty;
Sing our love to Alma Mater,
Hail, all hail to thee!
Since its founding in 1880, USC has had two alma maters. The first, also known as the “University Hymn,” was written by John Oliver Wilson ’08 and had four verses. The second – and current – alma mater is Alfred F. Wesson’s “All Hail.”
In the early 1920s, Wesson ’24, a journalism major and a trumpet player in the Trojan Marching Band, penned the musical numbers for a student fundraiser called Campus Frolics of 1923.
Frolics was a comedy, poking fun at university life, and Wesson decided “it would be a good idea to wind up with something more stately and serious” to show that even though they were ribbing the university, the students “really did love it.”
So, as he told Los Angeles Times sports commentator Sid Ziff in 1965: “I wrote something stuffy. I wrote a thing called ‘All Hail.’” Wesson claimed the inspiration came to him on a streetcar when, as managing editor for the school paper, he was on his way downtown to deliver page proofs.
Wesson was modest about his musical achievements. He called himself the “world’s worst trumpet player,” for example, even though his skill in reading music garnered him gigs that helped put him through college.
Similarly, he never dreamed his song would last. Yet almost immediately after its debut, his classmate Frank Lanterman, who had done the arrangement and also served as the university’s organist, began playing “All Hail” at the end of chapel hour. The song quickly superseded Wilson’s “University Hymn” in the hearts and minds of the student body, and it remains USC’s official alma mater to this day.
What’s more, “Cardinal and Gold” – the song Wesson wrote for the opening of the Frolics – also became a perennial favorite, played at Trojan football games and countless other university events.
Like his music, Wesson, too, had staying power at USC. He served as the university’s first full-time sports information director from 1928 to 1942. (He left USC to serve in World War II, and later became publicity director for Hollywood Park.)
Wesson also co-authored books with two of USC’s most legendary coaches: Football for the Fan with Howard Jones, and Championship Technique in Track and Field: A Book for Athletes, Coaches and Spectators with Dean Cromwell.